WEST MILFORD, N.J. – Before doctors discovered that Lois Hamilton of the Oak Ridge section of West Milford had a cyst pushing against her spine, she played tennis, skied and bicycled.
“I was always pretty active,” she told Daily Voice.
The cyst ultimately caused the former middle school math teacher to lose the ability to walk, and she now uses a wheel chair. But thanks to her determination, and the help of trainers at Push to Walk in Oakland, she’s discovered new ways to exercise and gain strength.
Hamilton is one of about 50 clients who train at the specialized gym that provides individualized workouts and resources to people with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, and other forms of paralysis to optimize their quality of life.
The gym also provides recreational activities for clients – such as surfing, adaptive yoga, sled hockey and art therapy.
Hamilton’s favorite, though, is the hand-cycling. For six years, she has been a member of the Push to Walk team that participates in the New Jersey Half-Marathon to raise funds for workout sessions.
The first year, she said, she just wanted to finish, but the feeling she got during the race got her hooked.
“If you go to a marathon like that, people are lining the course, cheering you on, and you are part of the group … I was hooked,” she said.
Now she recruits others to train for the half-marathon.
“She is a great motivator of people. She pushes other clients,” said Tiffany Warren, who oversees the gym's training staff.
“Most people depending on what their injury was, are usually told what they can’t do as opposed to what they can do. That is what we try to avoid, and try to get them to do these goals that they have,” Warren said.
Hamilton said her goal now is not to walk, but to gain trunk stability so she can carry things, get pans out of the oven, or reach for pots, without falling forward.
So her trainer works with her to mimic such actions to try to improve her balance and strength.
Through it all, Hamilton maintains a hopeful outlook.
“I find there are a lot of people worse off, and there are a lot of people not. So once in a while you might get depressed, but you still think, 'This is my life,'” she said. “I have supportive family. Right away my son and husband built a ramp off the back of the house. I have a stair glide to get to the other level.”
She also has grandchildren that like to ride on her motorized wheel chair – “one on my lap and one standing on the back.”
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